We had a simple itinerary today, having found that cycling or walking in the hottest part of the day lumped us in with mad dogs and Englishmen.
We rode north in the cool of the early morning, following the Noguera Palleresa, to the village of Escaló. From there, it was about a 20-minute walk up to the remains of the monastery of Sant Pere del Burgal. In front of us on the path were a couple, she approximately 75 years old, he about 80, having little difficulty with the rough terrain of stones and rocks and uphill slant.
Sant Pere was beautiful, and must have been an imposing building in its day. There had been frescoes on the walls, reproductions of which one could see in the church. The originals were scattered about in Barcelona, and Toledo, Ohio of all places.
Plexiglass enclosed the apse, but you could still see the elaborate stonework on the floor of the church. While Jim took pictures I spent some time sketching and was amazed to see the older couple ascending a 12-foot fixed ladder to a platform that afforded a view of the valley!
Down the valley again to the turnoff to Baiasca. This was a pretty steady uphill climb, but often through forest, so shaded. At one point we went past a substantial rock face and disturbed hundreds of orangeish-brown butterflies, all the same species who fluttered about us like a butterfly blizzard. It was lovely, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a way to photograph it! We stopped for lunch at a switchback, where there was a little creek, a black walnut tree overhead providing ample shade, comfortable grass to sit on—perfect!
The little village of Arestui had a church that looked like it was worth a look—until we got to the passageway leading there and were snarled at by two or three quite vicious-looking dogs. We decided to skip the church and head to Baiasca, which was a fairly level ride. The attraction here was 12th century frescoes in their original state in the church they had been painted in.
We found the church with no trouble, in fact you can see the church in the photograph of the village. A sign on the door said that visits were one euro per person, but gave no indication of how to get a visit, hours or anything. I wandered down and saw there was a visitors’ centre, but it was locked. I thought there must be some way of getting inside, so when I saw a man passing with his dog, I asked (in Catalan) if it were possible to visit the church. He told me to walk down to the little plaza and yell “Senyor Martellino!” So, with some slight trepidation, I walked to the little plaza and raised my voice (it was very quiet and my voice sounded very loud!) “Senyor Martellino?”
Within about ten seconds a man came to the door of one of the houses. I had obviously interrupted his midday meal (it was about 3:00 by this time), but he greeted me warmly and eventually made me understand that he had to get the key. About 30 seconds later he was accompanying me back up to the church, in his slippers, chatting away in Catalan.
The frescoes were wonderful and great to see in their original setting. The decoration on the window of the apse was delightful..
Senyor Martellino explained a little about the frescoes, and let us take pictures and stay as long as we wanted. Then he collected our two euros and let us out of the church, locked it and chatted away to me as Jim put away the camera. He showed us how to get to the main road, and said “You’ll find your car there.” We said we didn’t have a car, only bicycles. He said “Did you come from Arestui?” We answered, “From Llavorsi!” He seemed impressed!
A downhill coast and we were soon back at the campground, relaxing over a beer. Another day filled with blessings!